24/10/2019: “Gol-E Gandom” by Lloyd Miller

Sometimes, western attempts to blend Middle Eastern styles with Jazz can be a bit suspect. Especially if, as is the case here, the album title contains the word ‘Oriental’…

Aping traditional sounds and styles needs to be respectful – and importantly, it needs to work!

In this case, I feel that both criteria are satisfied – which checks out considering that Lloyd Miller is something of an expert in the sphere of Middle Eastern music. Of course, individual cultures have produced better players, but not many will have mastered such a diverse range of styles and instruments.

The song utilises a santur, which is a kind of dulcimer/zither thing (sort of like a guitar).

It’s a hypnotic effect. To start with, the song is a cascade of eerie twangs, until the more recognisable western jazz elements such as the bass and drums enter the scene.

This track is seriously catchy – no wonder the album this is from, 1968’s Oriental Jazz, is now so sought after!

19/10/2019: “Wildflower” by Hank Crawford

The original version of this was a soulful 1972 smooth jam by Skylark. It’s a nice enough tune, if a little lacking in energy.

There are no such concerns with Hank Crawford’s 1973 jazz cover. His saxophone soars heroically over a dense thicket of buzzing drums and forceful guitars, with the occasional vocal embellishment, triumphant trumpets, and a little bit of Rhodes riffing thrown in for good measure.

The song has a tremendously colourful presentation, but also excels rhythmically. The slap bass makes good on its initial promise here, pulsing with bursts of energy throughout. The funky feeling created by this gives the song a measure of accessibility – along with the catchy sax lead hook.

It’s a great piece of soul-jazz, drawing out a more exuberant facet of the original.

Hank Crawford’s “Wildflower” was released on Wildflower, a 5 song LP mainly comprising sax driven covers.